ResponsibleOhio fired the actress who dressed up as Buddie the marijuana superhero shortly after she expressed safety concerns and suffered an off-the-job foot injury.
Ericka Buford, 26, a single mom who lives in Columbus, said she was dismissed on Oct. 14.
“I wasn’t treated fairly at all. They never gave me a reason behind letting me go. We had had a meeting where I had expressed some concerns, yes, but they informed me that everything would be okay and my job would still be intact and everything would be fine,” Buford told the Dayton Daily News. “They next thing I know I get a phone call and they informed me ‘We decided to go a different way.’”
Buford said she told her bosses they should consider adding another staffer to the “Green Rush Bus Tour,” to provide security in the event that protesters show up to confront them.
She added, “They next thing I know someone else is being in Buddie and I just got kicked out. I listened and did every single thing that was asked of me. I’ve done everything.”
ResponsibleOhio spokeswoman Faith Oltman said of Buford’s dismissal “we cannot comment on personnel issues.”
Buford said she joined the ResponsibleOhio team Aug. 16 and was paid $5,000 a month to work a little over 40 hours a week, Monday through Thursday. Buford toured college campuses across the state dressed in the Buddie superhero costume — a muscled mascot with an oversized marijuana bud head.
ResponsibleOhio is a $20 million campaign to convince Ohio voters to say yes to Issue 3, which would legalize marijuana for recreational and medical use. ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said he is the brainchild behind Buddie, which he says is designed to appeal to college-age voters. Critics say Buddie is an overt attempt to appeal to children, much like the Joe Camel character peddled tobacco to kids.
Oltman said the campaign plans to replicate Buddie in the final weeks of the campaign so that the mascot can simultaneously appear in multiple locations.
Ohio voters will decide Issue 3 on Nov. 3. If it passes, Ohio will be the first state to go from a full prohibition to a full legal marijuana state without first implementing a medical marijuana program. So far, 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four of those — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — also legalized recreational use for adults.
Buford said she went into the job supporting Issue 3.
“Now I’m debating it because now I know how the people behind it work,” she said.